Intelligent Items [SRD] & DMG 3.5 mention: "In general, less than 1% of magic items have intelligence."

Like artifacts, intelligent items are never encountered as random treasure [d%] AFAIK.

Let's use a player Wiz-17 as an example, with access to all arcane spells in the PHB, with the Craft Magic Arms & Armour and Craft Wondrous feats and with enough XP/gp to spare. The PC has a +3 Animated Mithral Small Shield that he wants to imbue with sentience. The questions;

  1. How do I manage this as a DM according to RAW? Source?

  2. If allowed, are there any limitations for this player? (e.g. regarding alignment, access to divine spells, etc)

  3. Where does the intelligence/sentience actually originate?

Another (related) question, from a DM-standpoint only;

  1. Can an Artifact be imbued with intelligence according to RAW? (Devious plans are forming here..)

Or is this just it-has-no-statistics-thus-at-DM-discretion-only stuff?

Answers with (any) sources/references would be appreciated. Even sources from other versions are welcome at this point, although it's intended for 3.5. Much obliged.


3 Answers 3



  • Intelligent items can be randomly rolled. A DM adhering strictly to random treasure generation will find that nearly any permanent magic item can be at random an intelligent item. That is, the Dungeon Master's Guide says on page 216 that 1% of armor, 1% of shields, 5% of ranged weapons, and 15% of melee weapons that are randomly generated are intelligent items; likewise on page 229 it says 1% of rings, on page 234 1% of rods, and on page 246 1% of wondrous items that are randomly generated are intelligent items.

    While that may seem like a lot of intelligent items waiting to be looted (and, depending on one's point of view, enslaved), it ends up being surprising few: the Dungeon Master's Guide's rules for random treasure generation (see Table 3–5: Treasure on 52-3) are fairly tight-fisted magic-wise. Even a CR 20 creature like a pit fiend, for example, has a 25% chance of possessing no magic items at all in its hoard. Create a few sample hoards using the DMG's rules (I suggest a good rules-bound online generator—this one's pretty good, for instance—instead of actual dice; doing so by hand gets tedious otherwise), and you'll rarely roll up an intelligent magic item.

  • The DMG has no special rules for creating intelligent items. Except for mandating a minimum caster level of 15 and that the ensuing intelligent item have its creator's alignment (288), if a craftsman adds the cost from Table 7–30: Item Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and Capabilities (269) and maybe at least one power from the Intelligent Item Powers chart (ibid.) to a permanent magic item, the magic item's intelligent. However, keep in mind that the Dungeon Master's Guide on 268-72 focuses primarily on how the Dungeon Master should add intelligent weapons to the campaign instead of on how the PCs can. Without consulting the DMG—y'know, a book for Dungeon Masters—, PCs don't even really know the price of a +1 dagger. Although the metagame lets players know a lot of things, the PCs themselves need never learn in your campaign that crafting intelligent items is even a thing if you don't want them to.

    I say this not to rain on anyone's parade but because intelligent magic items with special powers can severely disrupt the action economy. Moreover—and, perhaps, more importantly—, a DM probably doesn't want PCs crafting intelligent magic items willy-nilly because, each time a PC does, the PC adds another NPC the DM must manage. It's a little like having the feat Leadership, except every magic sword, amulet, rod, and boot a magical craftsman creates can become like a little cohort.

  • The DMG doesn't say where an intelligent item's sentience comes from. However, this rules gap is filled in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting by the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell Nybor's psychic imprint [trans] (Magic Books of Faerun column "Nybor's Small Codex: Spells from a Former Zulkir"), which, metaphorically, takes photograph of a creature's personality and uploads it into a magic item. That spell or one like it is as good an answer as any.

  • PCs can't create artifacts and can modify them only with the DM's permission. The Epic Level Handbook says that "[m]ajor artifacts… are beyond the means of even epic characters to create" (73) and "minor artifacts are… magic items that no longer can be made by common mortal means—even by the hands of epic creators" (151). Even in the magic-saturated Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the Ars Factum chapter of the Nether Scrolls which "reputedly… taught the reader how to create artifacts" remains locked with all unable to discover the key to its powers (Lost Empires of Faerûn 156-7).

    Nonetheless, a generous DM may allow a PC to upgrade an artifact to sentience in the same way that a creature can pay to have a magic item further ensorcelled with more powers. This seems unlikely and dangerous, as artifacts—especially major artifacts—are important, and messing around with their magics is liable to alert someone or, worse, irritate someone.

More information about intelligent magic items—like how they can gain class levels but also much more than that (honestly, I went a bit overboard)—is available in answer to this question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much for this, +1 although my feedback ain't worth any points yet. I forgot all about the actual text on 216 (Random generation), thank you. I'm fully aware of the use of a DMG, however, any PC is allowed to TRY researching any subject. Given this PC's in-game resources (campaign has been running for a long time / near-Epic), I'm obliged to give him an answer eventually. I thought about Magic Jar, but the spell from your link is much more usable. I might allow him to make an intelligent item (trapping his soul) his next character-build is allowed to buy ;) Again, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ About the Artifacts, your point is my exact consideration: I was thinking of imbuing each of the Artifacts with a high Ego. No artifacts are in the hands of the players currently but they play a major role in the campaign as antagonists [have statistics thus...]. It's intended as a sort of additional "safety measure" now the PC's are nearing their goals. I want to flavor the end of the campaign-storyline AND make it more difficult to use artifacts by non-aligned PC's after reaching the epic conclusion of the entire campaign, in case we play further. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I recall, the magic item creation rules were expanded in Tome and Blood, again in the Magic Item Compendium, and the Epic Item Creation Rules can produce artifacts. All part of the core rules thanks to the SRD. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ "All part of the core rules" was intended to mean the Epic rules, not T&B or the MIC. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 13:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @user30200 The Epic Level Handbook says that "[m]ajor artifacts… are beyond the means of even epic characters to create" (73) and "minor artifacts are… magic items that no longer can be made by common mortal means—even by the hands of epic creators" (151), but it does slightly extend what intelligent items are available (146-50). Tome and Blood and the Magic Item Compendium discuss neither artifacts creation nor intelligent item creation. You made me look, though. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 15:28

Answered from phone so please forgive formatting.

Yes RAW this is acceptable

  1. The PC must be a minimum Caster Level 15 & meet standard item creation prerequisites (Craft Magic Arms & Armor for a weapon) & pay the difference in GP as standard.*

  2. The alignment will be the same as the creator's

  3. While not technically answered, it would appear it is from the creator. This assumption comes from the fact that the creator expended his life essence (XP) to create it (I know, thats the same as all other magic items, but then you) combine that with the answer to your 2nd question and it seems to point that this makes it get its attributes from its creator.

  4. No, not RAW. PCs (even epic level PCs) can't create artifacts; upgrading items requires that the person meet the prerequisites for the creation of the item they're upgrading. (That said, if you have "devious plans forming", "Rule 0" as the foundation of our great game always allows you to do so anyway).

Source: DMG 288, & then backwards to 268-272.

*The price seems off to me, as it appears you could technically get away with adding sentience for as little as 2000GP "market price", meaning a paltry 1000GP for a level 15 character. (Hopefully I've missed something that someone can point out to me below)

Base Price breakdown:

  • +1000-15000GP for ability scores & Capabilities as specified on Table 7-30 (DMG269)

  • +1000-6500GP for each Lesser Power possessed (amount of powers determined by table 7-30 mentioned above, minimum 1) (interestingly, actual powers are determined randomly, not the creator)

If applicable:

  • +7200-44000GP per Greater Power possessed (amount of powers determined by table 7-30 mentioned above) (interestingly, actual powers are determined randomly, not the creator)

  • +50000-200000* per Special Purpose Dedicated Powers

*Note that a non-epic item can't have a market value above 200,000GP

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You've missed nothing about the price. I can imagine a Terminator-style apocalypse involving intelligent magic items predicated upon a well meaning wizard thinking every magical convenience for some reason has a right to sentience, and those conveniences rebelling against their "owners." (And then, after they'd won, just kind of sitting there. They are, ultimately, just objects, after all.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or a malevolent Warforge Wizard who obsessed with the destruction of the soft-skinned races for their perceived atrocities! (Just to fully tie in the terminator metaphor) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hey I Can Chan: Ehm..., "Uh - oh." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 10:56

Monte Cook's Book of Eldritch Might III (also in The Complete Book of Eldritch Might) has rules for creating intelligent items, and they can even gain experience and increase in level.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the source, I'll see if I can snatch it up somewhere. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 21:44

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